Growing life from death

2017-01-27 09:05
Biotree co-founder Ryan Lancefield with his biodegrable urns. (Supplied, Ryan Lancefield)

Biotree co-founder Ryan Lancefield with his biodegrable urns. (Supplied, Ryan Lancefield)

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Tzaneen - Over the past few years, a handful of companies have sprung up in South Africa offering urns made from eco-friendly materials designed to decompose back into natural elements. They contain seeds that grow into a tree.

Ryan Lancefield, 26, of Tzaneen in Limpopo, is one of the founders of Johannesburg-based start-up, which is pioneering the concept in South Africa by offering biodegradable urns for both humans and pets.

Lancefield identified an opportunity to create a lasting impression after death, while simultaneously dealing with dwindling burial space, deforestation, and global warming.   

“I read an article about the issues facing burial sites, which are becoming overcrowded. The environmental issues can be addressed by planting more trees, so it’s a case of leaving something lasting behind and also doing your bit for the planet,” Lancefield explained.

After four years of painstaking development, Lancefield and his small team began selling the urns through their website at the end of 2016.

Each Biotree Urn produces an average of 117kg of oxygen, and reduces carbon dioxide production by about 21kg per year when the tree is fully grown.

For humans, Biotree Urns cost R3450 each, with three different indigenous seeds included –the iconic Umbrella Thorn, Coral Tree and Tree Wisteria. Other species can be arranged on request. The pet urns (available at R2950) come with smaller flowering plants such as the River Indigo, September Bella, and September Bush.   

The urns each have a soil disc with all the nutrients needed for the tree to grow. Loved ones are required to follow a few simple steps to germinate the seeds, plant the urn, and water the seedling until the tree takes root.

Biotree CEO Derek Holmes said the urns were intended to commemorate human relatives or pets which had become a beloved part of a family.

“We’ve seen huge interest from everyone we introduce the product to, and it’s also in line with the nationwide drive to preserve burial space and look for alternatives to the existing models,” he said.

Users can register their unique ID online, which allows the urn to be geo-tagged and attached to a short memorial celebrating the life of the deceased.

Biotree has established a partnership with reforestation organisation Greenpop, to plant one tree for every human urn sold. In addition, each human urn comes with a memorial bracelet made by the Bead Coalition, which creates work for unemployed women in rural areas.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  good news  |  environment

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